Euro Cup : Croatia favourite against Turkey

Bad Tatzmannsdorf, June 19:

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has seen how Turkey rallied to win their last two games at the European Championship. Ahead of his team’s quarter-final match against the Turks, he’s also been studying why they went behind.

Against Switzerland, Turkey came from behind to win 2-1 with an injury-time goal, and against the Czech Republic, they scored three goals in the last 15 minutes for a 3-2 victory.

“The way they managed the comebacks in those games was impressive,” Bilic said. “But, the way they trailed in those games also tells us something. Their strength is obviously somewhere in between.”

Bilic said the Turks were fortunate that their offensive tactics paid off. “The got a little bit lucky not to concede goals when they went on an all out offensive,” Bilic said on Thursday. “Our advantage is that we are not naive and that we are a better team than Turkey.”

The teams will play on Friday at Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, and the Croats will be looking to extend their winning streak at Euro 2008 to four matches. Both teams have reached the World Cup semi-finals in the past, but neither done that at the continental competition.

“Our quarter-final berth may be a surprise for some, but it isn’t for us,” Bilic said. “Our original goal was to reach the quarter-finals, but now that’s not enough.”

Turkey will head into the match thinking about the present and trying to forget the past. The Turks lost their Euro 1996 opener to Croatia 1-0 in England and finished the tournament without scoring a goal.

“The situation is much different from how it was in 1996,” said Turkey coach Fatih Terim, who was also the head of the team 12 years ago.

This month’s competition in Switzerland and Austria is Turkey’s first major tournament since they reached the semi-finals at the 2002 World Cup. And Terim, nicknamed “The Emperor,” thinks his team can go all the way to the final.

In Group B, Croatia beat Austria 1-0, downed three-time champions Germany 2-1 and defeated Poland 1-0 with a reserve team to spare their main players for the quarter-final.

Croatia captain Niko Kovac said Croatia has an edge over Turkey. “We are full of self-confidence, they are as well,” Kovac said. “Let’s say, we have a 51-49 per cent advantage over them.”

The Turks have several injury worries and will miss captain Volkan Demirel in goal after his two-match suspension following his sending off in the match against the Czech Republic. Rustu Recber, a 35-year-old, is set to take Demirel’s place, making his 117th appearance with the national team.

Midfielder Mehmet Aurelio is also out as the Brazilian-born player picked up a second booking in the Czech match. Also doubtful to start is defender Emre Gungor, who injured his calf during that match.

Defenders Servet Cetin and Gokhan Zan may also miss the quarter-finals because of injuries. Two Croatian reserves have been ruled out against Turkey. Defender Dario Knezevic has a knee injury, while striker Igor Budan has foot problem.